Pro-democracy leaders on Scotland's successful PR elections

by Jack Santucci // Published May 24, 2007
Americans who were there offer two strong commentaries today on Scotland's proportional voting elections.

FairVote's director Rob Richie guest-blogs today for the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network. In short, the two proportional systems performed well. Voter error and vote tabulation mishaps had nothing to do with PR.

A lot went right in Scotland...

...fair representation of Scotland"s political diversity, with four parties regularly winning more than 15% of the vote and smaller parties like the Greens winning significant shares of seats and votes. The system helps promote women, who comprised more than 40% of the initial parliament in 1999. Government has been steady, with the Labor Party forming coalitions with a natural ally, the Liberal Democratic Party, after the 1999 and 2003 election. In 2007, voters made a sharp turn toward the Scottish National Party, giving it a narrow plurality of both the district vote and the list vote. Even with less than 30% of the list vote, however, the Labor Party would have won an absolute majority of district seats. Proportional voting provided more accurate representation and ultimately put the SNP into power. Required to share power with others, the SNP will not be able to impose independence, however, reflecting voters" skepticism about such a move.

See Richie's post for more on the local choice voting elections, exploration of the ballot design and voter ed problems that led to counting delays and high error rates, and recommendations on how to do it better next time.

Stuart Comstock-Gay of Demos was in Scotland with Richie and 23 reformers, academics, U.S. election administrators and public officials. He blogs extensively on the success of choice voting (known as STV in Scotland) for local councils.

As a result of that STV system, Scotland no longer see parties with less than half of the votes holding overwhelming numbers of seats in the local governments. Instead, votes are broadly proportional, and many parties have a seat. In fact the success of STV voting was so successful that the Liberal Democrat Party has now called for STV in Parliamentary elections there.